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Trip report: 13,996′ Mount Humphreys “East Couloirs” | Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

Report dated May 11, 2024

Yesterday we went for a classic.

13,996′ Mount Humphreys in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

This is one of the four mountains on my wedding ring and I had never skied it before…

  • Meeting (actually a ridge): 13,400 feet
  • Car: 8,900 feet
  • Vertical from the car: 1500 meters
  • Vertical skiing: 300 meters in the East Couloir, 1,500 meters of glorious corn to Longely Lake, 300 meters more to the snowline (3,400 total)
  • Max. pitch: 43+º in East Couloir
  • Average pitch: ??º
  • Aspect: E
  • Distance: 10 miles round trip
  • Time from car to top: 5 hours and 30 minutes
  • Auto-auto time: 8 hours and 15 minutes
  • Recommended equipment: crampons, ice ax x2, skins
Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain

The Buttermilk Road is currently passable almost all the way to the Upper Buttermilk Trailhead.

We drove as high as we could and parked.

The walking started at 9am.

Dobbs shine. image: snow brain

55 minutes later we were in the snow.

We dropped our shoes, put on our boots, skis and skins and started.

I was tired…

Jason Dobbs. image: snow brain

Greggy led the charge to Longely Lake at 10,700′.

It was already 11:30 PM and I was afraid I would be late and ski bulletproof snow in the shade.

I still have PTSD from our shady Wahoo Gullies run 3 days ago…

Skier has the right east parachute. image: snow brain

I made a plan and started acting quickly.

At 1:00 PM I reached the base of the chute at 12,200 feet.

From there, the start-up was difficult.

Middle East parade. image: snow brain

Deep, transitional snow caused me to boot up to my knees most of the way.

We had chosen the Couloir in the Middle East and the thing ended up steeper than expected.

Halfway through, where the parachute was swinging, it just became vertical.

Dobbs, Greggy and Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain

At the dogleg the snow turned from slop to powder and I was encouraged.

Then the thing got even steeper (50º?) and the snow got firm and spicy.

Bah.

The slope of the Middle East is steepening. image: snow brain

The only saving grace was knowing it was flat at the top and we would have access to the other 2 East Couloirs.

The summit was super steep and narrow and the decision to break off was an easy one.

I reached the top first and examined the skier’s right East Couloir.

To shine. image: snow brain

It looked quiet with easy access, which was exactly what I needed after climbing with two ice axes for the past 30 minutes.

Dobbs reached the highest point and I told him the plan.

He was also relieved, but still willing to ski down the steep slope.

Greggy and Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain

Not me.

We walked to the skier’s right East Chute and got ready.

This is the parachute I had initially planned while skiing.

Pipsqueak peak. image: snow brain

It was steep, mostly straight, well walled, beautiful and consistent.

The snow looked powdery on the right and quite dirty on the left.

I fell first and the slick, soft snow was actually slick, firm and brittle snow.

Dobbs at the top. image: snow brain

Sketchy.

I pulled hard to the right towards a large orange peel textured snow directly against the wall and found it soft and cuttable.

I stuck in the big orange peel for as long as I could and then dove into the smooth, firm snow to get to the next snowy alcove.

Prospect. image: snow brain

Same situation here: step into the steep orange peel against the wall and work it as far away as possible.

I did this three times before I ran out of orange peel and had to commit to the slick, firm, brittle snow and the wet, boiled rollerball limp on the left side.

Dobbs came in and kicked off a little wet slide.

Humprey’s East Wall. image: snow brain

I saw it slowly bubbling up to me and had to make a decision:

  • Stand aside and watch him roll, risking him grabbing me
  • Hurry the fuck up and make my way to the bottom of the chute and get out of the way gracefully
NE Chute on Humphreys. image: snow brain

I chose the latter and moving quickly in the wet, boiled rollerball limp was a stiff challenge.

I pulled out of the chute and watched the slide gurgle past.

I then crossed the slide and slid slick corn down to a waiting Greggy at the base of the Middle East Couloir.

Mount Tom and the White Mountains. image: snow brain

Dobbs showed up shortly after and we went partying to Longely Lake skiing in the best corn of the season!

We’ve searched hard and high for good snow, but haven’t quite found it yet.

This corny suggested retail price tasted delicious.

Greggy on Longely Lake after perfect corn. image: snow brain

Past Longely Lake it’s a bit of an up and down and bushwhack and we skied to 9,800′.

Shoes felt so good…

About an hour of trail bopping and snow walking later we were back at the car.

Middle East parade. image: snow brain

I was delighted.

I enjoyed every minute.

Every challenge of it.

Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain

We haven’t seen another human being all day.

I said to the guys in the car as we bounced low in the 4×4, “These are the good old days!”

I meant it.

4×4 driving, big mountains, no one around, great skiing, amazing views, delicious burritos and unforgettable friends in human bodies who can still perform such feats.

Team ATK. image: snow brain

These are the good old days.

Taqueria Mi Guadalajara taco truck was once again the best Mexican food we’ve ever had.

Thanks, California!

Miles Clark skiing 13,996′ Mount Humphreys in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada mountains on May 11, 2024
Mountain Tom. image: snow brain
Gregg and the Hunchback. image: snow brain
Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain
Greggy and Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain
Gregg, Dobbs and Locke Mountain. image: snow brain
Mount Locke. image: snow brain
Hikers in the fog. image: snow brain
Tahoe Trail bar! image: snow brain
Upwards! image: snow brain
Top of the Middle East parachute. image: snow brain
Mountain Gabb. image: snow brain
Dobbs surfaces. image: snow brain
Dobbs finishes the climb. image: snow brain
Mount Geothe. image: snow brain
Dobbs. image: snow brain
Miles are about to fall. image: snow brain
Glistening wet slide and tracks. image: snow brain
Mount Humphreys. image: snow brain
To shine. image: snow brain
Gregg. image: snow brain
Gregg slide. image: snow brain
Dobbs shine. image: snow brain
Where’s Dobbs? image: snow brain
Corn spores. image: snow brain
Dobbs went home. image: snow brain
Mount Locke. image: snow brain
Locke, Dobbs, Gregg. image: snow brain
Dobbs homecoming heel click. image: snow brain
Taqueria Mi Guadalara is the bomb. image: snow brain
Taqueria Mi Guadalajara burrito. image: snow brain